After a poor 1-4 start, the Los Angles Lakers showed they were not afraid to make radical changes. With Mike Brown gone and Mike D’Antoni in after less than a week, the Lakers are looking to make another big switch.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Lakers have shown serious interest in Atlanta Hawk Josh Smith in exchange for Pau Gasol. The Hawks may have to include Kyle Korver or another player for contracts to match, but Los Angeles may have revived a rumored deal from last year.
Lauded as an “offensive genius” by many players, including superstar Kobe Bryant, D’Antoni’s uptempo system requires speed, three-point shooting, and athleticism, all things a younger Gasol could have provided.
The Spaniard and former All-Star appears to be on the decline, and D’Antoni may want some fresh, young blood on his team to pair with center Dwight Howard.
It should be noted, however, Gasol has thrived in heavy pick-and-roll offenses before, which is one of the main components of D’Antoni’s system. And Gasol has barely played with point guard Steve Nash, who is still out with a leg injury.
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Gasol also has the support of the most important Laker in Bryant, who backed Gasol up last season by calling out management for all of the trade rumors.
Los Angeles will also consider the close friendship Smith has with Howard. The young center will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and the Lakers will certainly try to show Howard they see him as the future of the franchise, even with Bryant still playing.
The 26-year-old Smith is also an unrestricted free agent in 2013, and has reportedly asked to be traded before, but Hawks have never complied. Atlanta is in the midst of a rebuild, after clearing most of their heavy contracts when they sent Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, and may not want to take on Gasol's contract.
Drafted out of high school and now an eight-year veteran, Smith is averaging 15.6 points and 8.3 rebounds on 41 percent shooting this season. That comes on the heels of a career year last season, when Smith scored 18.8 points and grabbed 9.6 rebounds, playing all 66 games. Smith could duplicate those numbers in D’Antono’s free wheeling offense.
Gasol, now 32 years old and owed more than $38 million in the next two years, is hitting below his career scoring average, with just 14 points a game on 42 percent shooting this year.